February 22, 2018, 02:38:36 PM

Author Topic: My Name Is Eric Rohkar  (Read 330 times)

Eric Rohkar

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My Name Is Eric Rohkar
« on: November 10, 2014, 06:33:22 AM »
He'd spoken and performed in front of tens of thousands of people. He'd been on television, broadcast to millions of people. There was a time when he couldn't walk down the street without someone recognizing him, asking for a picture or an autograph, and telling him how much they loved his work or how much they thought he was an asshole.

Now, standing behind a rickety, yellowish brown podium in front of twelve people in a little three hundred square foot room that sometimes served as a small dance studio was proving to be incredibly difficult. But he hadn't shared in awhile, and, according to his sobriety coach, sharing helped keep the demons at bay.

"Hey guys. My name is Eric Rohkar, and...and I'm an alcoholic."

They said hi back. Eric always enjoyed the greeting back. In most of these types of situations that hello would be very impartial, very cold and uninviting. He'd heard that hi a few times when he'd done, ironically, "Don't Do Drugs" talks at high schools, back when Jester Smiles telling you not to do something meant something. But these seven guys and five girls really meant hello. They were really greeting him, and they were really interested in hearing what he had to say. It made the nerves go away a bit.

"It's been two hundred and sixty seven days since my last drink." He knew that number well. He had kept count. Long before he had joined AA. Long before he had reached Richmond. The day after his attempted suicide, when he fought for nine days to get the alcohol out of his system while also not dying, he was counting. As he walked and hitchhiked back to his hometown, practically crawling out of Nevada in his new found sober stupor, he counted. "I...I tell myself a new number everyday. Since day one, when I was living in a car in Las Vegas, I would tell myself the number. I...I've even started writing the number on the back of my hand. It's a...a reminder."

Eric paused. He placed his hands on the podium. He could see, in black sharpie, two hundred and sixty seven. He'd wash that off tonight and tomorrow he'd write down two hundred and sixty eight.

"I moved out of my sisters place last week. Got myself a little travel trailer parked in the Camp n Go down the road a bit. It's...It's..." What? What was it? He was living in a trailer. Was he going to say nice? Just peachy? What?"

"It's...humbling. You know, really reminds me of things. Because I...I fucking had it all. I had a nice little ranch style house in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had a girlfriend who I was going to ask to marry me at some point. She had a kid and...and I was going to make him my son. Hell, he practically already treated me like I was his dad. I had fame and success. And money...well...I was a famous professional wrestler. Money was good."

Eric paused again. He was smiling. He didn't know why he was smiling, but he was.

"I...I lost all that. And for a long time, I thought to myself, it's the wrestling's fault. Yeah, man, that sport, it's...it's fucking evil, you know? It makes you a different person...it makes you a mean person. But twenty three days into my sobriety, sitting in the back of a pick up truck I had bummed a ride to Dallas, I realized that it wasn't the wrestling. Something else destroyed me. And I began to realize that...that it was the drinking."

Someone in the audience said amen. A couple of others nodded. Eric wasn't particularly religious these days, but the affirmation still felt good.

"It's weird when you think back to your drinking. You don't realize how long you've been hurting. When I got into the business, it was a party scene. Things get wild. And...and I thought I was pretty chill. I mean, I wasn't snorting cocaine off of dead hookers or anything." Some people snicker. Eric scoffs a bit. "But I did realize that I was going out to the parties a lot. I was waking up hungover a lot. There was always alcohol in my house. But when things were good, it wasn't that big of a deal, right?"

Crysta popped in his head for a moment. The smile he had faded away. He didn't think about her often nowadays, but when he did, it always struck him hard.

"No, it wasn't a big deal. At least, not until it was. See, social drinking, that's fine. A beer every now and again, no big deal. Hell, a glass of wine with dinner is nothing. But for some of us, well...we feel that high that intoxication brings, and...and it's so nice. It's fun. And it's okay that it's fun. It's okay that we are having a good time. Long as we are being pretty safe, it's not big deal." Eric sighed heavily. "Then the fun stops. Life gets hard. For me, the wrestling world was spinning out of my control. I had been hurt so many times. I felt like the company I worked for, the company I had bled for, was actively seeking to fuck me over. Friends aren't who you thought they were. People aren't as good as you thought they were. Shit just...just stops making any sense. And then...then you remember how much fun you had intoxicated. You start thinking...man, I bet things would be okay if I were drunk."

He remembered her crying. August 2011, when he left home and disappeared from her life. He remembered her crying. He remembered holding her and saying "It'll be okay." He remembered telling her "I'll be back soon. I just need to figure somethings out." He had figured out a few months back why she was crying. She knew the truth.

"It was in 2010 that things got really bad. I was drinking a lot, kind of a had a constant buzz. I beat it for, like, two months, but I was quick to be back on. And I hid it really well. Everyone knew I looked tired, beat up, but no one really knew why. They just figured I was stressed out. Job was getting to me. I could be a bit overly dramatic, so, you know, I was probably just letting the job get to me too much. And I was. I totally was. But that wasn't really why I looked beat up. I looked beat up because every night, once they cameras stopped rolling, I would beat myself up with a bottle or three."

He thought about the letter he had received a month after arriving in Richmond. A notice from the Las Vegas Police Department letting him know that he was not to be within so many hundred feet of Crysta Jessup. Eric had wanted to be angry, but...but he couldn't be. Not at them anyway. His anger was reserved for himself only.

"From September of 2010 to February of 2014, I was consistently at least buzzed. By the Summer of 2013, I was drunk off my ass every night. By February I was homeless and trying to kill myself. So, to recap, a guy who had spent most of fifteen years calling himself Jester and making people laugh was drunk on Nyquil, crying his eyes out, and trying to blow his brains out with a pawn shop snubnose. That was about as rock bottom as I think rock bottom can get."

He tried to pour everything into his two new jobs, fitness instructor at the YMCA and an assistant teacher at a nearby Tae Kwon Do school. He avoided the TV completely, and certainly never looked up anything about SHOOT. As much as it hurt him, he tried to forget about someone who had been his best friend, and someone else who had been the love of his life. But forgetting was never easy.

"But...but I lived. I lived and I got sober. And, yeah, when things get hard, I miss the booze. I miss waking up sick. I miss never being mentally clear. I miss the cotton mouth and headaches. Despite the fact that I have basically obliterated by liver and pancreas, and despite the fact that the drinking caused me to develop diabetes, I miss the goddamn stuff." The room was silent. In wrestling, silence was a bad thing. Eric would never really get used to silence. "But I am clean. I am sober. Two hundred and sixty eight days since I've had a drink. For two hundred and sixty eight days I've been...free. And it sucks to be free. It sucks to have to have all these choices and all these responsibilities. It's so much easier to let the booze, or the pills, or even another person take control of your life. It's so much easier to let something else run what it is you're doing. But...but man, fuck that. It sucks being free, but it's what we are born to be. We aren't made to sit by while alcohol or drugs or toxic people run our lives. And...and for the first time in four years..."

Tears were welling up in Eric's eyes. But he wasn't ashamed. He wasn't afraid to cry in front of these people. Because they got it. They understood what he had been through. They'd all done it too, and they were with him.

"For the first time in four years, I'm okay."

The meeting was over. Eric sat outside the little dance studio/confession hall. It was freezing out, but all he wore was a lite pull over hoodie. He stared into the night sky, relaxing and breathing in the cold air. He hated it. The quiet. The silence. It was like death. But he needed it. He needed to get used to it. So there he stayed, in complete silence, save for one moment where he broke it.

"I'm sorry."